DOC orders Beltrami Co. Jail to reduce capacity after multiple violations

The state is stepping in and on Monday ordered the Beltrami County Jail to reduce its capacity after multiple violations were found during an investigation into a complaint stemming from delayed medical care.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) said the jail must submit its plan by the end of the business day Monday, then reduce its capacity by Wednesday.

“As the licensing authority, out of immediate concern for the safety of both staff and the people in custody, I’ve ordered the Beltrami County Jail to reduce the licensed capacity of the facility,” DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell said. “When life safety is an issue, we must take swift and decisive action.”

The department says it received a complaint after a Jan. 24 incident where medical care was apparently delayed after someone at the jail attempted suicide.

DOC started investigating the incident and found multiple violations of minimum staffing levels, attempts to prevent medical transports for emergency care and delayed medical transports despite direction from medical staff, the department says.

Additionally, the department also noted several times when jail staff failed to conduct timely well-being checks, including immediately before the Jan. 24 incident. Its investigation is still ongoing.

“Based on the DOC’s investigation to date, Beltrami County Jail’s failure to comply with applicable minimum staffing requirements has created conditions that pose an imminent risk of life-threatening harm or serious physical injury to individuals confined or incarcerated in the facility,” the order states in part.

The department’s order on Monday places the Beltrami County Jail’s license on conditional status and reduces its approved capacity from 140 inmates to 80, and its operational bed capacity from 126 inmates to 72.

The order could last through the end of May 2024 if DOC hasn’t issued a new order by then.

The jail will be able to request reconsideration and prove it can handle its normal capacity at any time.